Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ki Tavo
To dedicate this lesson

Tithes Confession – Confession for good things?!


Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon

In our portion we learn about the commandment to remove tithes and the commandment to confess tithes.

In Deuteronomy 14 (28-29) we find the commandment of removing the tithes, which teaches us that we have to complete all our tithe debts left from the previous three years (a type of end of tax- year).

Another commandment is the Tithe Confession Commandment, which is the recital of verses found at the beginning of our portion, Parshat Ki Tavo, which testify that we did all that is required regarding separating terumot (priestly tithe on produce) and tithes.

Within the Tithe Confession Commandment the Tithe Removal Commandment is mentioned (Deuteronomy 26: 12-15):

(12) When you have finished tithing every tithe of your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give to the Levite, to the proselyte, to the orphan, and to the widow, and they shall eat in your cities and be satisfied:

(13) Then you shall say before Hashem, your G-d, "I have removed the holy things from the house, and I have also given it to the Levite, to the proselyte, to the orphan, and to the widow, according to all the commandment the You commanded me; I have not transgressed any of Your commandments, and I have not forgotten:

(14) I have not eaten of it in my intense mourning, I did not consume it in a state of contamination, and I did not give of it for the needs of the dead; I have hearkened to the voice of Hashem, my G-d; I have acted according to everything You commanded me:

(15) Gaze down from Your holy abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground that You gave us, as You swore to our forefathers, a Land flowing with milk and honey."

Our Sages called this commandment – Tithe Confession. Seemingly, the wording of "confession" does not fit here, as it is not speaking about a person who behaved improperly.

What is the significance of confession?

The simple meaning of confession is that a person has to recognize his sins, which is the first step in correcting them. According to some opinions, a person has to define his sins (a dispute in Yoma 86B, whether a person needs to list his sins). The confession, which is said verbally (according to most opinions the main part of the confession is the verbalization), helps a man define his inner thoughts. The confession assists in exposing inner things in order to make them easier to correct.

Confession is desired the whole year, but it is especially desired on Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance. Possibly, besides the special need to confess on Yom Kippur, there is also a special ability on this day to confess sincerely. On Yom Kippur man becomes elevated and gives his soul freedom. The soul intrinsically strives for truth and integrity, and therefore on this day it is possible to confess more honestly than during the rest of the year.

However, as stated, it is difficult to understand the concept "Tithe Confession" for it is not speaking about a person who acted improperly.

The author of "Minchat Chinuch" (437, SV and I thought to say) introduces a novel idea, that it could be that the confession is only said by someone who held onto his tithes and didn’t give them on time, and is now correcting what he distorted. This explanation is very novel. From the Torah’s simple meaning is sounds like it is speaking about a person who acted properly – " when you have finished tithing …I have acted according to everything You commanded me ". Furthermore, our Sages in Sota (32B) call the Tithe Confession "man’s praise".

The "Minchat Chinuch" (437) explains, that since speech is a significant thing, G-d wants us "to testify for ourselves with our mouths in the Holy Temple that we have not lied with them and we didn’t prevent anything from them, in order that we should be very careful in this regard". In other words, the future declaration with which tithes are delivered causes man to take this commandment seriously.

Rav Kook (Ain AY"H, Brachot pg. 405) explains wonderfully:

The Torah comments that man also needs to rejoice at times by verbally expressing a good deed that he has done…

In other words, just as man confesses his sins, he also at times has to confess before G-d his good deeds, in order to be happy with himself and the good things he has done.

According to Rav Kook, the confession has a two-fold purpose: on the one hand, the person needs to confess before G-d all his sins. On the other hand, a person sometimes merits to also confess before G-d his good deeds. How do these two conflicting actions integrate in the same word?

At times, the evil urge incites a person to think of himself as inherently evil with no chance of correcting his sins. The Chassidim say that at times the Evil Urge’s goal is not the sin itself, but rather the feelings of lack of ability, despair and spiritual descent that is caused by the sin.

Through the confession we completely reject this thought process. We confess our sins, but through the confession we know that the strengths which caused the sin are not inherently evil, and those same strengths can lead us to repentance. The sin doesn’t bring us to despair, but just the opposite, it brings us to the knowledge that we have in us the strengths to overcome the sin. Our sins and good deeds are included in the same word: confession.

Confession also has a third significance. Rav Kook ((Ain AY"H, Brachot pg. 253) says that thanksgiving comes from the word confession. And it’s possible to also say the opposite: confession is from the word thanksgiving. A person confesses his sins and gives thanks and praise to G-d Who gave him the ability to recognize his sins and confess them; thanks to G-d Who gave him the strengths to correct; thanks for the good deeds he will yet do, and for which he will give thanks and confess before G-d in the future.

Let us search our sins and transgressions, cry over them with a broken heart, understand that G-d wants our repentance and gives us the strengths to repent. When contemplating our sins let us also contemplate our good deeds, gain strengths, recognize our abilities, and through them draw strengths to continue and achieve, to correct the past and to empower ourselves for the future. In the confession let us see the opening for correction, and the essence of the confession will be the start of the improvement.

May he Who dwells on high let me hear "I forgive", to save a poor and destitute nation,

when we call out to You, Awesome One, answer us, G-d be a help for us.
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